Monday, 2 November 2015

Dozens missing as ferry sinks on Chindwin River

At least four people have died and as many as 80 more are missing after a boat sank on the Chindwin River in Mandalay Region’s Kalaywa township yesterday.

Rescuers said they were able to save about 30 passengers, but witnesses claimed that around 100 people were on board the vessel at the time of the accident.

The boat, called the Ya Zar Tun, sank around 5:30am, according to the township head, who was alerted to the incident an hour later. The official said everyone was still in the river by the time authorities arrived to begin the rescue operation.

The bodies of four people were recovered soon after, while the boat captain, as well as his wife and one-year-old son, were among the 70-80 people still missing at the end of the day yesterday, according to the township official.

U Aung Zaw, the Kalaywa township National League for Democracy secretary, said a party campaign team arrived in Gazet village, Kalaywa township, yesterday morning, but instead of canvassing, the group began assisting the rescuers.

“[The team] helped bring four passengers who had serious injuries to the Kalaywa hospital,” he said, adding that they had been cut by a broken glass cover on the upper deck of the boat that shattered before the vessel capsized.

U Aung Zaw also said all of the dead recovered yesterday were women. They have yet to be identified.

A 20-year-old local resident said the boat was crammed with about 100 people before it hit an eddy and sank. He also said that an army unit came to assist the rescuers on the water yesterday.

Ko Kyaw Thet Win, chair of the Upper Chindwin Youth Network, blamed the slew of accidents on the Chindwin River on careless driving. He said that crashes happen frequently in the area, due to a lack of safety checks and routine maintenance. He speculated that the Ya Zar Tun appeared to have been overloaded, and may have sunk due to an imbalance. The official cause of the accident remains unknown, however.

A ferry disaster in March off the coast of Rakhine State officially claimed 72 lives, while survivors’ say the actual toll is much higher. The Aung Takon 3’s ship log recorded 214 passengers and crew, though it was officially licensed to carry just 176. Those on board claim there were over 400 people stuffed on to the boat, which was also heavily overloaded with cargo, including some even crammed into the toilets.

The accident prompted a closer examination of the state of the government’s underfunded ferry network, and the Inland Water Transport promised more stringent safety checks, training for staff and onboard demonstrations.

Monday 2 November 2015


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